Posted: 12/2002


By Josh Long

for resellers marketing unified communications to small businesses. Keep the
sales pitch simple.

"It’s still an educational
process for most people when it comes to unified messaging and the way to get
through to that customer is to simplify the sales pitch, asking the customer
what they want and what they need," says Goeke, president of One2Connect
Inc., an Atlanta-based company that sells unified messaging (among other telecom
services) to telephone and Internet companies as well as businesses through its
wholesale partner, Voicecom. "Meet that need and stop."

In a nutshell, someone using unified
communications can access all of his or her voicemail, e-mail and faxes from the
telephone, the Web or a desktop application such as Lotus Notes or Outlook

But unified communications is more
than that. For instance, affiliated find-me services allow a business customer,
colleague or family member to track a person down on their cell phone, wire-line
phone or some other device. Unified communications also has text-to-speech and
speech-to-text capabilities to deliver messages across all media, including the
telephone, Web, e-mail, fax and handheld devices.

One2Connect is focusing on the small
business market because it is easier to reach the key decision-makers, and their
financial regime is less complex than large businesses, says Goeke. An IT
manager representing a large business could find a unified messaging solution
compelling, but is more likely to be constrained by a budget shortfall within a
department, he says.

One2Connect has had success selling
the unified messaging solutions to a variety of small businesses, closing deals
within 90 days on average, Goeke says.

"The country is run by the
small business owner and every business sells something, so there is really not
a business that can’t benefit from this product," he says.

One2Connect also sells unified
messaging to consumers that includes voicemail-to-e-mail capabilities that allow
a person dialed up to the Internet to check a phone message.

Systems integrators and other
communications companies repackaging unified messaging solutions for larger
businesses face a much longer sales cycle, ranging from a month to a year and a
half, with the average cycle falling in the neighborhood of three to four
months, according to some.

"I would say orders have been
slowed down. It’s really just the economy. People are hesitant to spend
money," says Gioia Ambrette, president of Newcastle Communications, a New
York-based telephony integrator that resells unified messaging applications to
Fortune 500 companies, law firms and smaller companies through its wholesale
partner Captaris Inc., which partners with more than 2,000 resellers.

Captaris, based in Kirkland, Wash.,
posted $363,000 in third-quarter net income, or 1 cent per share, compared to a
net loss of $2.1 million, or 6 cents per share, for the same quarter a year ago.

However, on Oct. 31 the company
announced a "voluntary layoff program" designed to eliminate about 40
jobs, representing less than 10 percent of its total workforce by the end of the
year. The company cited the "realities of a difficult economic environment
and overall softness in IT spending."

But despite a sluggish economy,
research and consulting group, Radicati Group Inc., found that 55 percent of 151
global corporations it surveyed this year indicated plans to implement unified
messaging applications by 2004. Radicati Group expects the unified messaging
market to reach approximately $461 million by the end of the year and grow to $8
billion by 2006.

Sources say many companies purchase
one component of unified communications and subsequently migrate to a more
comprehensive solution. Moreover, when IT managers do gain the green light to
tap their coffers as the economy improves, they should have more flexibility to
buy advanced unified messaging solutions, like a wireless application provided
by Captaris, that allows a person to access company data such as e-mail and
client information from a handheld device.

Meanwhile, communications companies
representing Captaris and other unified messaging providers note that sales
activity has not ground to a halt.

Rob Simpson, the president of
Carlsbad, Calif.-based Advanced Call Processing (ACP), another company reselling
unified messaging from Captaris, has had success marketing unified messaging
products to law firms, municipalities and medical centers. Simpson says one of
his customers is a technology law firm with eight offices and around 1,200

"They are constantly in touch
with what is going on down at the office," he says.

Hospitals have had unified messaging
systems for a while, but a number of them of them are just now starting to
implement them in the face of economic pressures to automate processes,
according to Simpson.

Though the company has not observed
a significant increase in the number of systems sold over the last few years,
"certainly the size of the deal has gotten larger," he says.

Simpson agrees the current economy
is not ideal for generating new leads. "A lot of companies have cut back on
their spending. It has been a little more difficult … to get
appointments." But he says most of his company’s business is generated
through word of mouth, and ACP, which has been in business for about 13 years,
sells about 40 to 60 unified messaging systems or portions of them each year,
Simpson says.


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